Ford Kuga Titanium X

2.0 TDCI AWD

PowerShift

Ford Kuga, front action
Ford Kuga, front action 2
Ford Kuga, front action 3
Ford Kuga, dash detail
Ford Kuga, front static
Ford Kuga, dashboard
Ford Kuga, rear seats
Ford Kuga, side action
Ford Kuga, boot

FORD took on board more than 22,000 comments from research clinics and surveys as it went about giving its Kuga SUV a mid-life refresh. The hope, of course, was a better car.

How much better? Well, you can now push a button to wake up the new SYNC 3 connectivity system and tell the car "I need a coffee", to be directed to a nearby cafe. Same applies to airport, hotels, car parks and the like.

Which is hardly a make or break feature, but another example of how smarty-pants electronics is taking over the world. And very useful some of it is, of course.

Another change being adopted by car makers is the consignment of buttons to the dustbin of design history and crowning the touchscreen as the future for a generation of owners who see an iPad as an extension of their arm.

So, the latest Kuga loses some buttons and gains a big and clear touchscreen. It works well, even if mounting it back into the dashboard makes for some awkward finger stabbing.

And Ford, thankfully, has not gone the full no-buttons road of some others, leaving the heating controlled by buttons and knobs, and all the more convenient for that.

Electrics play a pivotal role in other items featured on this revamp, even if most of them cost extra, even on the high level Titanium X car you see here, ranging from a hands-free tailgate (£150 and waggle a foot beneath the rear bumper) to a rear view camera (£250) and active city stop (£200) which brakes for you and avoids a collision if you're not concentrating.

Ford says the Kuga's cockpit is 'meticulously crafted', which is stretching things. Solid and sensible is more like it, especially when compared to fresher opposition (SEAT Ateca and Peugeot 3008 spring to mind), but it all works well.

A new electronic handbrake (not that anyone will use it at the lights) frees up space between the front seats for extra storage, even perhaps a cup of coffee if your voice command fails to find a nearby cafe.

A USB connection point lets you keep your mobile phone charged, while for £125 you can warm your hands on a heated steering wheel, wrapped in leather.

That same covering is used for the seats in the Titanium X model on test, heated in the front and electrically adjustable for the driver.

Other Titanium X goodies include a glass roof big enough to make the most of a dull winter's day, a powered tailgate and impressive xenon headlamps that bend round corners and adapt their beam shape - even searching out the side of the road in a downpour and ensuring oncoming drivers aren't dazzled.

Outside the car you'll notice a bolder face with more prominent grille (everyone's making their cars look more aggressive these days), along with redesigned tail lights, alloy wheels and new paint colours.

Kuga prices start at £21,395 for a car with a petrol engine and manual gears and top out with the £34,915 Vignale with the same 2.0-litre petrol engine and automatic gearbox as the modestly less well equipped and cheaper car tested here.

That underbonnet combination produced 39.7mpg over more than 500 miles, including a lot of London driving (bad for economy) and a deal of motorway time too (good for frugality).

It also meant a quiet power unit once warmed through and performance that was the right side of adequate, if some way from sporty. A hesitant step off from stationary was sometimes not helpful in rush hour traffic.

FAST FACTS

Ford Kuga Titanium X 2.0 TDCI AWD PowerShift

Price: £32,845

Mechanical: 178bhp, 1,997cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 124mph

0-62mph: 10.0 seconds

Combined MPG: 57.6

Insurance Group: 25

C02 emissions: 134g/km

Bik rating: 28%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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